'Nuummioq'

Humorous pic maintains an unemphatic but steady grip on its protag's emotional awakening.

Purportedly the first locally produced feature film ever made in Greenland, “Nuummioq” is an engagingly low-key and increasingly contemplative look at a man’s journey across land and water to new-found self-awareness. Never less than a pleasure to behold thanks to the stunning landscapes and nimble handheld lensing, the mischievously humorous picture maintains an unemphatic but steady grip on its protag’s largely unarticulated emotional awakening. Unassuming, sympathetic effort will gain automatic entree to fests around the world based on the novelty of its origins alone and has a sliver of commercial potential in specialized Euro and North American markets.

That the film has turned out well at all perhaps rates as a mild surprise, not only because of the lack of filmmaking infrastructure in the sparsely populated nation (which is still largely administered by Denmark), but also because of its fractured production history; original director Otto Rosing reportedly became severely depressed and departed the production immediately after principal photography was finished in the summer of 2008, whereupon screenwriter Torben Bech assumed co-director status and oversaw editing and post-production with producer Mikisoq H. Lynge.

As it is, the pic is marked by a fleet editing style that skips from moment to moment while still allowing the story’s meditative aspects to take hold, although some patchwork is visible via the abundant layering of moody pop tunes, many of them in English. Importantly, however, the storytelling maintains its throughline and slowly develops heft despite the relative ordinariness of most of the action.

Title refers to “residents of Nuuk,” the small capital city of the giant, largely ice-covered island. The main resident in question is Malik (Lars Rosing, the original director’s brother), a ruggedly attractive blond carpenter who’s good with his hands — he’s an expert outdoorsman and has no trouble getting women — but spends most of his time bumming around with his cousin and best friend, Michael (Angunnguaq Larsen), and rotund buddy Carsten (Morten Rose) who, early on, endures a painful overdose of Viagra. The horizons around Nuuk appear distinctly limited and Malik seems to lead a thoroughly unexamined life.

All that changes when he gets some bad medical news that sends him on a boat journey with Michael to a remote and strikingly barren area where unexpected encounters with death, long-ignored family skeletons and the simple power of nature lift Malik, if not to an exalted sense of his place in the grand scheme of things, then at least to a clear-eyed view of his condition and priorities.

Considerable sensory and sensual gratification stems from the superb, assuredly unfamiliar settings, which include iceberg-bearing bays, stark, rocky terrain and bracing coastal areas; Bo Bilstrup’s crystalline widescreen lensing; the great beauty of Julie Berthelsen, who plays Malik’s far more mature ladyfriend; and the unusual string-plucked musical offerings of composer Soren Hyldgaard. Performances are agreeably naturalistic.

Nuummioq

Greenland

Production

A 3900 Pictures presentation. (International sales: XYZ Films, Los Angeles.) Produced by Mikisoq H. Lynge. Co-producer, Claus "Matrix" Lauritzen. Directed by Otto Rosing, Torben Bech. Screenplay, Bech, based on an original idea by Rosing.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Bo Bilstrup; editors, Henrik Fleischer, Niels Ostenfeld; music, Soren Hyldgaard; additional music, Jan De Vroede; music supervisor, De Vroede; sound, Johnni Lovkvist; re-recording mixers, Henry Michaelsen, Henrik (Gugge) Garnov; associate producer, Ruth Montgomery-Andersen. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Jan. 18, 2010. (In Sundance Film Festival World Cinema, competing.) Running time: 104 MIN. (Danish, Inuit dialogue)
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